Power Grid board game lights up local game nightBanner, Opinion — By Christopher Spencer on March 5, 2010 at 12:14 pm
This isn’t your grandmother’s bingo night and you won’t know the games. It’s a different sort of game night and it focuses on the non-American side of board games.
Around 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday, Castle House Games, located in Fayetteville’s Evelyn Hills Shopping Center on North College, plays host to Board Game Night.
The board game of choice recently was Power Grid, published anew in 2009 by Rio Grande Games. The re-issued game features some minor rule changes and touched up artwork from the 2004 version.
Power Grid, created by German game inventor Friedmann Friese, is a simple board game where the object or end goal is to be the player with the most cities connected and powered with electricity by game’s end.
It won the 2005 Spiel des Jahres award, which is the board game equivalent of an Oscar.
The object of the game seems simple, but reaching 15 cities while keeping them powered and connected proved too much for this player.
As the five of us sat around the map of Germany (double-sided board includes a U.S. map also), I chose to start playing with trash-burning power early as I thought the others would go after the cheaper raw materials.
In the first round, all players bid on a power plant to fuel their beginning city.
Players then buy raw materials to power their cities. The turn order starts with the player in last place. This is important because raw materials are limited and price goes up as more are purchased.
Following raw materials purchases, cities are built (again with last player building first). In this phase, timing and placement is critical as you don’t want to get blocked in by other players’ cities.
After city building is the last phase of the round: bureaucracy. During bureaucracy, players decide how many cities they want to and are able to power. Players make money based on the number of cities powered, and the power plants available for auction is updated.
The competitive nature of the game soon set in as one of the players, Liz, quickly set out to build a way for her cities, cutting off the southern fifth of the board from the rest of the players. She claimed she was only buying cities along the cheaper routes, but the move allowed her more room for growth and less competition for building locations.
After the game, I asked Liz what she thought of Power Grid.
She said she enjoyed it quite a bit, but that she “liked [the game] Steam better because of the mechanic where you pretty much have to go into debt to get ahead.” This prompted another player, John, to caution that while the debt is needed, you have to eventually dig yourself out or you’ll lose in the end.
Steam is a similar game, distributed by Mayfair Games, but instead of fighting to buy power plants and building cities, players struggle as railroad tycoons to build train tracks and increase their railway system.
Getting back to Power Grid, the other three players went with the basic tactic of building as fast as possible and wherever possible. They were only limited by open board locations and the amount of cities their power plants could power.
One of the players, commented that, “he’d probably focus more on power plants next time. It’s better to waste the [extra] power than not have enough later on.” Certainly wise tactics as long as you keep in mind which raw materials are being used.
Anyway, once one of us reached seven connected cities, the second step started and allowed for two cities to be built on the same board location though no one player could have two cities in the same location.
Tactics stayed the same for most players involved which led to Josh eventually winning after realizing that he could power the 15 cities needed to end the game and did so by building his last three cities.
Also, according to John, who organizes the game to play each week, once you’ve played the basic game, there are other expansion packs for the game which have special rules and different options for game play such as the Central Europe board which puts in to play nuclear free zones.
Board Game Night proved to be a great find and was a worthy way to spend an otherwise dull Wednesday evening! And while I did end up losing, I was in good company enjoying a great game. I suggest you come down and try Power Grid yourself or even join in for the next Board Game Night!
Seth Bernard graduated with a B.A. in Psychology from Henderson State University in May 2009 and now lives in Fayetteville with his wife. He enjoys board games, RPGs, and video games. If there is strategy and competition involved, he enjoys it, meaning he is a huge Razorback fan and loves living in Hog Heaven.
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